The Legacy of NASA’s Dawn, Near End of Mission

PASADENA, Calif. (NASA PR) — NASA’s Dawn mission is drawing to a close after 11 years of breaking new ground in planetary science, gathering breathtaking imagery, and performing unprecedented feats of spacecraft engineering.

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JAXA Identifies Landing Sites on Asteroid Ryugu for Hayabusa2 Mission

Asteroid Ryugu photographed by Japan’s Hayabusa2 spacecraft. (Credit: JAXA)

TOKYO (JAXA PR) — The Landing Site Selection (LSS) conference was held on August 17, 2018 and the candidate landing locations for touchdown, MASCOT and MINERVA-II-1 on the surface asteroid Ryugu were decided. In this article, we introduce the landing candidate spots and the planned dates for these surface operations, along with details of the selection.

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10 Reasons Why NASA is Visiting Asteroid Bennu

Artist’s concept of asteroid Bennu. (Credit: NASA Goddard Space Flight Center)

By Lonnie Shekhtman
NASA Goddard Space Flight Center

After traveling for two years and billions of kilometers from Earth, the OSIRIS-REx probe is only a few months away from its destination: the intriguing asteroid Bennu. When it arrives in December, OSIRIS-REx will embark on a nearly two-year investigation of this clump of rock, mapping its terrain and finding a safe and fruitful site from which to collect a sample.

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Particles Collected by Hayabusa Give Absolute Age of Asteroid Itokawa

The cross section area of the particle collected from the asteroid Itokawa using Hayabusa spacecraft. (Credit: Osaka University)

OSAKA, Japan (Osaka University PR) — Understanding the origin and time evolution of near-Earth asteroids (NEAs) is an issue of scientific interest and practical importance because they are potentially hazardous to the Earth. However, when and how these NEAs were formed and what they suffered during their lifetime remain enigmas.

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Aerojet Rocketdyne Propulsion Powers OSIRIS-REx’s Approach of Asteroid Bennu

This is an artist’s concept of NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft preparing to take a sample from asteroid Bennu. (Credit: NASA/Goddard/Chris Meaney)
  • All 28 of the rocket engines on NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft are provided by Aerojet Rocketdyne.
  • Onboard delta-v thrusters will slow the spacecraft’s speed by more than 1,000 mph to match Bennu’s velocity and enable a safe arrival.
  • Aerojet Rocketdyne propulsion will maneuver OSIRIS-REx around the circumference of Bennu for more than a year for surveying and mapping before descending to the surface to take a sample, and then accelerating the spacecraft back to Earth for its return.

REDMOND, Wash., Aug. 24, 2018 (Aerojet Rocketdyne) — Powered by Aerojet Rocketdyne propulsion, OSIRIS-REx’s long-awaited approach of Asteroid Bennu has officially begun. With the asteroid now in sight, the spacecraft’s onboard thrusters will begin to conduct a number of approach maneuvers to match Bennu’s orbital velocity to prepare for arrival on Dec. 3.

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NASA’s OSIRIS-REx Begins Asteroid Operations Campaign

REENBELT, Md. (NASA PR) — After an almost two-year journey, NASA’s asteroid sampling spacecraft, the Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security-Regolith Explorer (OSIRIS-REx), caught its first glimpse of asteroid Bennu last week and began the final approach toward its target. Kicking off the mission’s asteroid operations campaign on Aug. 17, the spacecraft’s PolyCam camera obtained the image from a distance of 1.4 million miles (2.2 million km).

OSIRIS-REx is NASA’s first mission to visit a near-Earth asteroid, survey the surface, collect a sample and deliver it safely back to Earth. The spacecraft has traveled approximately 1.1 billion miles (1.8 billion km) since its Sept. 8, 2016, launch and is scheduled to arrive at Bennu on Dec. 3.

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Landing on Ryugu – A Surface with a View of Boulders

The boulder-strewn surface of asteroid Ryugu. (Credit: JAXA, University of Tokyo, Kochi University, Rikkyo University, Nagoya University, Chiba Institute of Technology, Meiji University, University of Aizu, AIST.)

COLOGNE, Germany (DLR PR) — In early October 2018, the Mobile Asteroid Surface Scout (MASCOT) lander is expected to be in operation for approximately 16 hours on the Ryugu asteroid. The selection of the landing site will take place this August. The ideal site must firstly offer the MASCOT team engineers excellent conditions for a safe landing and stable operation on the asteroid, while providing the researchers with a wealth of new and productive measurements.

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MASCOT’s Asteroid Landing – Preparations, Risks and Last-minute Decisions

Asteroid Ryugu photographed by Japan’s Hayabusa2 spacecraft. (Credit: JAXA)

COLOGNE, Germany (DLR PR) — Scientists and engineers have been waiting nearly four years for the Japanese Hayabusa2 spacecraft – which is carrying the Mobile Asteroid Surface Scout (MASCOT) lander that was developed and constructed by the German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt; DLR) – to reach its destination: the asteroid Ryugu. With the approach and arrival having taken place on 27 June 2018, the landing is now within reach.

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Maxar’s SSL Expands Scope of Work for NASA Asteroid Exploration Mission Psyche

NASA’s Psyche mission to a distant metal asteroid will carry a revolutionary Deep Space Optical Communications (DSOC) package. This artist’s concept shows Psyche spacecraft with a five-panel array. (Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Arizona State Univ./Space Systems Loral/Peter Rubin)

SSL selected to provide critical flight system component for Psyche Mission, which will reveal the mysteries of the only all-metal body known in our solar system

HERNDON, Va. – August 9, 2018 (SSL PR) – SSL, a Maxar Technologies company (formerly MacDonald, Dettwiler and Associates Ltd.) (NYSE: MAXR; TSX: MAXR), and a leading provider of innovative satellites and spacecraft systems, announced today that it was selected by Zin Technologies to build and test the Psyche Compute Element.

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Planetary Resources to Auction off Equipment

Well, this doesn’t sound good.

In a fresh sign of the financial straits facing Planetary Resources, the asteroid mining company will be auctioning off hundreds of items from its headquarters in Redmond, Wash., ranging from industrial-strength CNC machine tools and 3-D printers to laptops and folding chairs.

The online auction will be conducted by James G. Murphy & Co. from Aug. 21 to 28, with a preview scheduled on Aug. 27 at Planetary Resources’ machine shop, lab and offices at 6742 185th Ave. NE in Redmond.

“We are preparing to sell some equipment that we’ve identified as not currently needed and easily replaceable,” Chris Lewicki, Planetary Resources’ president, CEO and chief asteroid miner, told GeekWire in an email. “This is a result of reducing overhead as we go forward with our smaller team.”

Word is the company is down to a handful of employees. Asteroid mining is a long-term venture; Planetary Resources hasn’t found a revenue model that can get it from here to there.

Imaging Ryugu from an Altitude of 6 km

Figure 1: Asteroid Ryugu from an altitude of 6km. Image was captured with the Optical Navigation Camera – Telescopic (ONC-T) on July 20, 2018 at around 16:00 JST. (Credit: JAXA, University of Tokyo, Kochi University, Rikkyo University, Nagoya University, Chiba Institute of Technology, Meiji University, University of Aizu, AIST.)

TOKYO (JAXA PR) — Hayabusa2 arrived at asteroid Ryugu on June 27, after which the spacecraft remained at a distance of about 20km (the Home Position) to continue to observe the asteroid. During this time, the spacecraft was maintaining a hovering altitude of 20km above the asteroid surface. In the week of July 16, operations were begun to lower this hovering altitude, eventually bringing the spacecraft to less than 6km from the asteroid surface. One of the images taken at that time is shown in Figure 1.

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Observatories Team Up to Reveal Rare Double Asteroid

PASADENA, Calif. (JPL/Caltech PR) — New observations by three of the world’s largest radio telescopes have revealed that an asteroid discovered last year is actually two objects, each about 3,000 feet (900 meters) in size, orbiting each other.

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OSIRIS-REx Successfully Completes Second Deep Space Maneuver

This is an artist’s concept of NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft preparing to take a sample from asteroid Bennu. (Credit: NASA/Goddard/Chris Meaney)

GREENBELT, Md. (NASA PR) — New tracking data confirms that NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft successfully completed its second Deep Space Maneuver (DSM-2) on June 28. The thruster burn put the spacecraft on course for a series of asteroid approach maneuvers to be executed this fall that will culminate with the spacecraft’s scheduled arrival at asteroid Bennu on Dec. 3.

The DSM-2 burn, which employed the spacecraft’s Trajectory Correction Maneuver (TCM) thruster set, resulted in a 37 miles per hour (16.7 meters per second) change in the vehicle’s velocity and consumed 28.2 pounds (12.8 kilograms) of fuel.

Tracking data from the Deep Space Network provided preliminary confirmation of the burn’s execution, and the subsequent downlink of telemetry from the spacecraft shows that all subsystems performed as expected.

DSM-2 was OSIRIS-REx’s last deep space maneuver of its outbound cruise to Bennu. The next engine burn, Asteroid Approach Maneuver 1 (AAM-1), is scheduled for early October. AAM-1 is a major braking maneuver designed to slow the spacecraft’s speed from approximately 1,130 to 320 miles per hour (506.2 to 144.4 meters per second) relative to Bennu and is the first of four asteroid approach maneuvers scheduled for this fall.

NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, provides overall mission management, systems engineering and the safety and mission assurance for OSIRIS-REx. Dante Lauretta of the University of Arizona, Tucson, is the principal investigator, and the University of Arizona also leads the science team and the mission’s observation planning and processing. Lockheed Martin Space in Denver built the spacecraft and is providing spacecraft flight operations. Goddard and KinetX Aerospace are responsible for navigating the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft. OSIRIS-REx is the third mission in NASA’s New Frontiers Program. NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, manages the agency’s New Frontiers Program for its Science Mission Directorate in Washington.

Airbus Celebrates International Asteroid Day with Vigilance

TOULOUSE, France (Airbus PR) — As the world observes International Asteroid Day – established by the United for global awareness about asteroids – Airbus continues its leadership in a multinational European programme that could help humanity to protect itself from future impact hazards posed by these space objects.

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Russian Nuclear Agency Explores How to Prevent Armageddon

Bruce Willis in Armageddon.

Tass reports that Russia’s state nuclear corporation, Rosatom, is exploring ways to blow up asteroids before they blow us up.

“Our study is only a part of the quest to create an asteroid protection system. The priorities here are detection, classification and high-precision monitoring of a celestial body. After that, a bomb should be designed, which would be safe enough during the launch. A carrier rocket will have to be designed, too,” said Vladimir Rogachev, the deputy head of the laser physics institute at the Russian Federal Nuclear Center (VNIIEF), part of the Rosatom corporation.

“This is an international task of impressive scope. We have something to offer. But there are also things that we need to borrow,” he went on.

“Regretfully, international politics and the current state of international relations necessitate a different format of communications, so we have to wait. But we should not procrastinate: when a dangerous asteroid approaches the Earth, it will be too late,” the researcher added.

Rogachev said that VNIIEF scientists have “baked” an artificial chondrite, the most popular type of asteroids, to study its qualities. According to their calculations, if a 200-meter asteroid approaches the Earth, a rocket should be launched approximately a month before the planned impact, to smash the celestial body into small parts that would burn upon entering the atmosphere.

“Yes, some parts will reach the surface of the planet, but, due to their small size, there will be no apocalypse,” he said. “This technology would be sufficient to destroy an object similar to the Tunguska meteor.”